The End - Part Two

I’ve been putting off writing this installment. I am, I admit, notoriously unreliable when it comes to writing this blog but this time it was more than that. It was partly due to not wanting to sign off on what has been one of the most defining periods of my life and also because I don’t know if I have the words to do it justice and convey just how important Starting From Now has been to me. But, yes, mainly because I’m bad at updating this blog.

Ending Part 1 of this installment after the release of Season 3 was no accident. Looking back, the evolution of Starting From Now occurred in two distinct phases: Seasons 1-3 where we were operating on a minimal budget; and Seasons 4-5 where we had screen agency funding (Screen Australia and Screen NSW); corporate, industry and community partnerships (IVF Australia, Spectrum Films, Pavilion Entertainment, ACON, and Star Observer); and a broadcast deal with SBS.

That sort of seismic shift, and it was a seismic shift for those of us who’d worked on the series from the beginning, doesn’t just happen. It takes a great deal of hard work, tenacity, and forward planning. I mentioned in Part 1 that Rosie Lourde (who came on as a producer for Seasons 3-5) and I took stock at the end of Season 3. We knew that in order to achieve our goals – to honour the audience’s investment in the series; do justice to the characters and story by bringing them to a meaningful conclusion; pay our incredible cast who, up until this point, hadn’t been paid; challenge ourselves creatively; use the platform we’d built to explore issues not usually dealt with in a web series; and to elevate the production values and storylines beyond what we’d been able to achieve to date – we would need funding. This was around the start of 2015. We spent the better part of the next eight months working towards securing this funding.

Producing requires a vast array of skills. As someone who is organized, hard-working and driven, I possess some of them, but not nearly all of them. I have the temperament of a writer and am most comfortable in front of my computer. I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of partnering with people who possess a skillset that complements your own. Rosie and I have different personalities and complementary skillsets.

Securing funding is not just about filling in forms and ticking the right boxes (although there is a lot of that). It’s about believing in your project and having the ability to convince other people to believe in it. It’s about making connections, forming relationships, and eliciting advice from those in the know. This was why we were successful in securing funding for Seasons 4 and 5 and this was primarily due to Rosie’s work as a producer. It was her ability to see the bigger picture, to strategically place Starting From Now within the industry and to engage key people in not only supporting the series, but becoming its champions.

When you’ve worked without financial support it’s tempting to think that if you had funding, all of your problems would be solved. That’s not exactly how it works. With funding comes a whole new set of pressures, expectations and responsibilities. There are more people to answer to, more relationships to navigate and the stress of having to deliver increases. We shot Seasons 4 and 5 as one block – the equivalent of a feature film in 21 days. That shoot was simultaneously one of the most stressful and rewarding periods of my life. During times such as this people tend to show their true colours. You learn a lot about the people around you and you learn even more about yourself.  

After Marcus Stimson, our DP, captured the final shot of that 21 days I went into the toilets of where we were shooting, collapsed onto my haunches and wept out of sheer exhaustion and relief. It felt like a weight had been lifted and a milestone reached. I’m just glad there was no-one standing over me at the time saying ‘if you think that was tough, wait till you get into post’.

There’s still a great deal more to say about the conception and evolution of Starting From Now and the impact this series has had on me both personally and professionally, but this feels like a good place to end this installment. After five seasons in three years (the equivalent of 30 short films or 2.5 feature films); over 30 million views (proof there’s an audience for female driven content); screen agency funding; 30 festival appearances; award recognition; and a broadcast deal with SBS, the series that asked more of me than I ever expected, but gave so much more in return, is finally over.

Thank you to everyone who worked on Starting From Now and who contributed to its success (particularly Bianca Bradey, Sarah de Possesse, Rosie Lourde and Lauren Orrell); to all those who championed both the team and the series; to our incredible audience; and to those people in my life who gave me the strength to keep going.

By Julie Kalceff

The End - Part One

In April, 2013 I sat down to write Episode 1 of a web series called Best Intentions. In July, 2013, a number of drafts later, that web series was called Lost and Found and then By Design. By the time we started shooting in September of that same year, the series was called Starting From … Now!. Three years later we’ve dropped the punctuation and are currently in the middle of releasing the fifth and final season.

Given all that’s happened during that time and how much Starting From Now has dominated my life, I feel an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness, but at the same time, relief and gratitude. This series has taken me on an incredible journey with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. As indulgent as it may be, I can’t help but reflect on everything that’s happened and the impact those events have had on my life and on me as a person.

When we started shooting on Saturday, September 7, 2013 there was only ever going to be one season – six standalone episodes born out of frustration at the lack of diversity in mainstream media and the firm belief that there was an audience for stories by and about women. What happened over those next 11 days made it clear to me that this was never meant to end with only one season. There was more to these characters and their stories that needed to be told. There was also more that I needed to find out about myself and, at the time, this seemed like the best way to do that.

By the end of 2013 we’d shot two seasons before going into post-production. The first episode was released in March, 2014. By the end of that year we’d not only shot a third season, but released all three, 18 episodes in total, the equivalent of 18 short films. I can’t even count how many mistakes I made during that time. It was the steepest learning curve of my career, but it was nothing compared with what was to come.

By this stage everyone’s hard work was starting to pay off. Starting From Now was finding an audience, 10 million views in less than 12 months. But it wasn’t just any audience; it was a passionate, engaged and invested audience who cared about the characters and their stories. The messages of support and gratitude were beyond anything I could have imagined. Viewers wrote about how refreshing it was to see lesbian characters who weren’t defined by their sexuality, others told of how this made them feel less alone, and another wrote to say she’d been waiting for a show like this since she was 12 years old. As a lesbian who grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney I knew exactly what she meant.

Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the audience comments were about the quality of the acting. I’ve often felt, over the course of the past three years, that this production is blessed. The best and most obvious example of this is the incredibly talented and generous cast that is the heart and soul of the series. Bianca Bradey, Sarah de Possesse, Rosie Lourde and Lauren Orrell have been on board since the very beginning. They have given more to me and to Starting From Now than they will ever know. Working with them over five seasons has taught me a great deal and has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this venture. 

By this time I was no longer the sole producer on the series. Lauren Orrell (who plays Kristen) came on board as a producer for Seasons 2 and 3 and Rosie Lourde (Darcy) joined as a producer from Season 3 onwards. Having both Lauren and Rosie as producers on the series helped elevate Starting From Now to new levels. It wasn’t always easy, however. Having been the sole decision-maker and creative on the project from the beginning, it was difficult for me to relinquish some of that control. What became apparent, however, is that if you want a project to soar, you can’t do it all yourself. If I had remained the sole producer throughout we probably wouldn’t have a fourth and fifth season and, if we did, we’d still be shooting most of it in my living room.

The demands of other work meant Lauren stepped down as a producer after Season 3. This, coupled with a disappointing crowd funding campaign, led to Rosie and I taking stock, thinking about where we wanted to take the series and how many more seasons we needed to achieve our goals. We realised we’d need two more seasons to do justice to the story and the characters. We also knew that if we were to make Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From Now we wanted to challenge ourselves creatively and elevate the production values and the storylines beyond what we’d been able to achieve to date. Thus began the next phase of this somewhat unlikely and incredible journey.

 

END PART ONE

 

P.S. Given how notoriously unreliable I am at updating this blog, I’ll be handing the reins over to some of the cast over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for their thoughts and insights as they share their experience of working on Starting From Now. Part 2 of “The End” will then follow as our fifth and final season draws to a close.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

Support from within

I’m embarrassed to say the last time I posted was on February 13, almost a year ago. It’s been a wild and crazy ride since then and while there’s no point attempting to recount everything that’s happened in the 10 months since I last wrote, there are a few things I’d like to touch on.

The first is how much I’ve learnt during that time. Rosie Lourde (Starting From … Now! producing partner and actor) and I joke that we’re up to lesson number 658. Whilst said in jest, I actually think it’s not too far from the truth. Since February we (with the help of others) have spent countless hours working on funding applications, resulting in funding from both Screen Australia and Screen NSW; we’ve secured community and corporate partnerships; we’ve assembled a cast and crew for both Seasons 4 and 5 of SFN; shot both seasons and are now currently in post on Season 4 with a release date of early 2016 – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot that went on underneath and in between that I can’t possibly remember and some of which is probably best to forget. As a former teacher I highly value learning and believe it’s imperative for our development as human beings. However, it would be nice, occasionally, to not have to learn all lessons the hard way.

Having said that, I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to do what I do. Working on SFN has brought me great pleasure and satisfaction and is, by far, the most rewarding thing I’ve done professionally. The primary reason for this is the quality and character of people I’ve been able to work with and the incredible support we’ve received from within the industry. While I’ve worked with some wonderful men during this time (you know who you are) the bulk of the working relationships I’ve had throughout this process have been with women. The support we’ve received from women within the industry has been incredible.

There’s been much talk in the press lately about gender (in)equality in the film and television industry and representations of women on screen. As such, you’re probably aware of the mind-blowing statistics and stunned by the fact that women are still marginalized in 2015. However, it feels as though the tide is turning. Initiatives have been put in place by funding bodies and other industry organisations and the issue is being discussed on a number of platforms. What we’ve found on a more practical level is that there is real and genuine support from women within the industry. A number of accomplished and talented women have reached out to us and generously given us the benefit of both their time and immense talent to help this project grow. This has been invaluable to us personally and to SFN as a whole. I think there’s a gross misconception in the industry, and society in general, that women see each other as rivals and don’t support each other’s careers. From my experience, this is far from the truth. The collegiality and support is there and the more we utilize this and help each other, the more we benefit as individuals, the stronger the film and television industry becomes, and the closer we come to redressing the inequities in our industry.

I look forward to continued change within the industry next year and beyond. The potential is there, but it’s also what we make of it. I’ll take any opportunity I can to support other women and help them to further their careers.

Thank you to everyone (both women and men) who’ve been a part of SFN this year. It’s been a hell of a year. I’m exhausted, but grateful, and I’m very much looking forward to the New Year. If you thought this year was big, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

By Julie Kalceff

 

That's not what a lesbian looks like

One of the most rewarding aspects of making Starting From … Now! has been the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had from the audience. Our audience has, for the most part, been supportive, engaged and emotionally invested in the characters and storylines, many since the release of the very first episode. There has, however, also been some criticism of the series and it’s one of those criticisms that I’d like to address today.

This criticism has come from a small number of viewers and also, I have no doubt, a small number of people who haven’t even watched the show. They’re quite passionate in their assertion that Starting From … Now! isn’t diverse enough in its representation, that the women are all “straight-looking girls” and are portraying lesbians in an unrealistic way. Some also argue that because the actors have long hair and are thin this contributes to body image issues among lesbians and has “a serious effect on our perceptions of ourselves as “normal” or acceptable people”. And, finally, Starting From … Now! has also been accused of having no lesbians in a lesbian drama. 

Let me address each of these in turn.

I’ll begin by saying, Starting From … Now! isn’t a documentary. It’s a scripted drama that uses actors to take on the role of characters and bring those characters to life on screen. The purpose of the show is to entertain and, hopefully, in the process, touch on issues that affect viewers in some way and, as a result, connect with them on an emotional level. You can’t do this by casting your friends, or people who have a passing interest in acting. You do this by casting trained, quality, professional actors. In the whole time the show has been running, not once has the acting been criticized. In fact, it’s commonly believed to be one of the strongest aspects of the series.

When auditioning, I’m looking for the best actor I can find. The person, I believe, will bring depth to the character, who will embody the essence of who this person is and bring her to life on screen. Once I’ve found that person, I can’t expect her to cut her hair so we can “better represent the lesbian community”, especially when I’m not paying her and, as a result, have the actor miss out on revenue from advertisements or roles for which she would normally be cast.

Does this mean we’re portraying lesbians in an unrealistic way? Maybe, but I’d sacrifice short hair for quality acting any day of the week.

The assertion that because the actors have long hair and are thin this then contributes to body image issues among lesbians and has “a serious effect on our perceptions of ourselves as “normal” or acceptable people” is a much more complex issue. The media has a lot to answer for in regards to body image and the representation of women. This is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed. However, the assertion that this particular web series affects lesbians’ perceptions of themselves as “normal” or acceptable people, I think is somewhat overstated. I would like to think that the majority of people can differentiate between fact and fiction, that seeing an actor on screen playing a lesbian doesn’t have a significant impact on their sense of self because they don’t look exactly like them. What, I believe, has more of an impact is not seeing lesbian characters on screen at all. No series can be everything to everybody. The more screen content we have that centres around lesbian characters, the less this becomes an issue. I would love for Starting From … Now! to speak to everybody. I would love for it to represent all aspects of the lesbian community and I would love for it to address and solve all the problems we’re facing as individuals and as a group, but that’s not going to happen.

And, finally, the accusation that there are no lesbians in this lesbian drama is actually just incorrect. The fact that this assertion has been made says more about the prejudices and propensity to stereotype of the people making the accusation than it does about the series itself. What does a lesbian look like? I’m not here to out people, no-one has the right to do that, but I am here to argue that just because a woman doesn’t look like a lesbian is traditionally believed to look, doesn’t mean she isn’t one. Talk about lack of diversity.

And just in case you don’t believe me, check out this blog entry by Clementine Mills. Clem plays Bec in Seasons 2 and 3 and will be expanding her role in Season 4 of Starting From … Now!

https://lunarkaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/ah-but-you-dont-look-like-a-lezza/

 By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

What is a "lesbian" film?

I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the Mardi Gras Film Festival last week. It was a great night and it looks like there are some really exciting films on offer.

I love going to the festival and seeing “lesbian” films. I love sitting in a cinema that is predominantly made up of women, most of whom identify as lesbians. When you’re in a minority those moments are few and far between and, I believe, one of the reasons members of the LGBTI community attend the film festival. One of the other reasons, of course, is to see queer films and for audience members to see their experiences, and characters they can identify with, portrayed on screen. Again, the lack of diversity in mainstream media means those opportunities are rare.

Which raises the question, what makes a queer film, or to be more specific for the purposes of this blog, what makes a lesbian film? Is it a film that’s made by women who identify as lesbians and, if so, how many of the filmmakers need to be lesbian? One, two, three? If it’s just one, does she have to be the writer, director or producer? Can non-lesbians make lesbian films? Is there a distinction between lesbian film makers and lesbian filmmakers? Do the actual actors themselves need to lesbians? Does the film have to have characters who identify as lesbian? And, if so, if a character identifies as lesbian but doesn’t act as a lesbian is traditionally believed to act eg. the number of films where “lesbian” characters sleep with men, is she still a lesbian character and is this still a lesbian film? You can see how complicated this can get.

I think the danger of going down this path is that we get so caught up in labeling and compartmentalizing that we miss out on seeing the bigger picture (or pictures in this case). Rather than focus on who made the film, how many lesbian characters there are in any given scene, whether or not the actors identify as straight or lesbian, why not just judge each film on its merits? When the lights dim and the opening titles appear on the screen, it’s the content that matters, not who made it.

Lesbians deserve to see good films that explore some aspect of being part of the LGBTI community, regardless of who made them. The films don’t have to be about being a lesbian, or to have been made by lesbians, or acted by lesbians, they just need to be good films, and films we may not otherwise have access to. The days of having to sit through poorly acted, badly shot B-grade movies that focus on the angst associated with being a lesbian, are over. We’ve gone beyond that and we deserve better.

And the only way to get better films about the LGBTI community is to encourage people to make them. We should be encouraging and supporting lesbian filmmakers and we should be encouraging and supporting lesbian film makers. There’s clearly not enough content as there is. Surely by doing this, we all benefit in the end.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

Happy birthday to me

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’ll be 44 years old. Even as I write that I wonder where the last 20 years have gone. It’s true, time does speed up as you get older.

I’ve struggled with birthdays in the past. They make me feel like life is passing me by, that I haven’t done enough and that it’s getting too late for me to do what I want to do. And that’s all true. I haven’t done enough and it is getting too late for me to do everything I want to do, but that’s what life is like. You can never do everything. What you can do, though, is make the most of the time you have.

This became apparent to me about 12 months ago. I was talking to my cousin, who’s two months older than me but infinitely wiser, and complaining about the fact that we were getting older. She just shrugged and said, “It’s better than the alternative”.

And she’s right. When I think of the people I’ve lost over the last couple of years and how fragile life is, it makes me realise that I’m lucky to be having another birthday and I’m lucky to be getting older. Instead of thinking about what I haven’t done and may never do, I’m going to try and focus on how to best utilize the time I have left. Instead of regretting squandered opportunities and the fact that it took me to age of 40 to work out what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’m going turn it into a positive. All going well, I figure I’ve got at least 20 years left in the workforce (it’s only women in front of the camera that have an expiry date, right?). That’s 20 years to practice my craft and develop my skills and, hopefully, make films and series that connect with people in some way.

And getting older has its advantages. If I’m going to be completely honest, I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now 20 years ago. I was a different person back then. I was still trying to find out who I was and, in the process, pretending to be someone I’m not. That, in itself, can take up all your energy. At the age of 44, I’ve now got vastly more experience to draw on, I feel like I understand people better and, more importantly, I understand myself better than I ever had. I've still got a lot to learn and I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can. 

So rather than wish I’d come to this 20 years ago, I’m going to try and be thankful that I’ve come to it at all. Some people never have that. If you are lucky enough to work out what you love, what drives you, and what gives your life meaning, you owe it to yourself and those around you to make the most of it while you can.  

By Julie Kalceff  

 

 

 

New year?

It’s good to be back. I’m excited about 2015 and what it may hold, not just in regards to Starting From … Now!, but also the overall direction of Common Language Films. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to have some time off. In fact, I didn’t realise how much I needed a break until I had one.  Overall it was peaceful, rejuvenating and uneventful, except for one thing.

On the last day of 2014 I was walking down Marrickville Road with my partner. We were crossing a side street when a male driver yelled out his car window and called us “fucking dykes”. His exact words were “Watch where the traffic’s coming from you fucking dykes”. Now, I have to admit, when it comes to crossing the road I can be pretty careless. In fact, I’ve even received a fine for jaywalking to prove it. However, on this occasion, I don’t believe we were at fault and even if we were, does failure to notice an oncoming car really warrant that level of vitriol?

It shook me up a little but I was more surprised than anything. For the most part, Marrickville is considered a gay-friendly suburb, it’s one of the reasons I choose to live there, and I rarely experience blatant expressions of homophobia. It reminded me, on the last day of the year, that there’s still so much to fight for, that homophobia is well and truly alive and well and LGBTI people everywhere are subject to this type of abuse (and much worse) daily.

I think there’s a real danger in thinking that things have changed, that we’re a more enlightened society and those of us who are coming out have it much easier than those who came before us. In some regards this is true, however, it’s not the complete picture. It’s never easy to come out and it’s well documented that suicide rates amongst LGBTI youth are significantly higher than amongst the general population. It’s a complex problem that requires a number of different solutions, however, education is always a good place to start.

One small thing, I believe, that can help, is an increase in visibility and diversity in representation on screen and in the media in general. The more diversity in representation we have, the less LGBTI people are thought of as the ‘other’ and, in some cases, think of themselves as ‘the other’. There will always be people who choose to remain ignorant and shout obscenities from the safety of their car, but for those who the obscenities are being shouted at, the more they see themselves or people they can identify with on screen, the less this type of abuse threatens their very sense of being.  

I’m not naïve enough to believe a web series can change the world but what I do know from the feedback we received in 2014, is it can change the way people think and think about themselves. Imagine, therefore, what multiple web series can do, the impact that hundreds of short films can have, the important discussions that numerous feature films about LGBTI characters can start.  

So if you've been thinking about producing something for the screen, or any type of creative pursuit for that matter, then why not make this the year to do it? You’ve got a blank slate ahead of you, 12 months of unlimited possibility. Why not use it to do something you’ve always wanted to do? You never know, it may even have a positive impact on someone you don’t even know. 

By Julie Kalceff

The year that was and (hopefully) will be

Given this is my last blog for the year I’d planned on making it somewhat reflective by listing some of the highlights of 2014. While I think it’s important to look back at your achievements and the things you’ve done well, it felt way too narcissistic to turn that into a list. So, instead, I decided to make this about some of the goals I’d like to set for 2015.

Before I do, however, there are a couple of 2014 highlights I would like to mention. Recently I discovered Starting From … Now! has been viewed in over 193 countries. There are so many statistics that can be accessed for a web series: number of views per episode, views in the past week/month/year, overall views, age and gender demographics, etc., all of which are important to know and extremely useful. However, this statistic about the number of countries really made an impact. One of the things I feel very strongly about is the need for diversity in representation on screen. I think it’s extremely important for all people to see diversity in the media, but particularly important for those confused about, or struggling with, their sexuality or gender identity. The fact that the series has now been seen in that many countries around the world, makes me feel really good about what we’re doing.

The other highlight I’d like to mention before moving on was a direct result of the article that appeared in the Star Observer. This was a highlight in and of itself but it was what my sister wrote beneath the Facebook post about the article that really hit home. She wrote: “So very proud of my extremely talented and brave sister for following her dream”. We don’t often talk like that in my family so to read that comment in such a public forum really meant a lot.

Okay, that’s enough looking back. Here are some of my goals for 2015. I feel like more will emerge as the year progresses but this is how it stands for now:

-       to not only make Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From … Now! but to make them even more compelling and visually engaging than past seasons

-       to build on past collaborations and to develop new ones that are fruitful, rewarding, inspiring and energizing

-       to take care of the people in my life, both personally and professionally

-       to try and find a healthy balance between work and life

-       to make sure I let people know how much I value their friendship, love and support

-       to continue developing ideas and stories with the view of making longer form content in the future 

-       to take time to be thankful for having the opportunity to not only do what I love, but to be able to do it with such talented, generous, warm and wonderful people

Thank you to everyone who’s read the blog, watched the series and shown your support throughout 2014 in a myriad of different ways. Stay safe and enjoy a well-earned rest over the holiday break.   

By Julie Kalceff

Counting the costs

The last episode of Season 3 of Starting From … Now! goes live on Tuesday. This will not only mark the end of what’s been one hell of a year, it will also be the first time since we launched Season 1 Episode 1 that we’re not in pre or post production on the next season.

This isn’t to say that we’re not going to make Season 4. We’d love to and, in fact, the scripts are written and ready to go. What it does mean, however, is that we need to find a way of making it that allows us to pay people for their work.

The first three seasons were made for very little money. I know I’ve addressed this in earlier blogs so I won’t go into detail here. What I will say, however, is that a model such as this, where people donate time, talent, equipment etc. is not sustainable and is not how I want to continue. You can’t keep making high-quality screen content that utilises the skills of hard-working, experienced and talented people and not pay them. There are people working full-time on making this series who are not being paid. Key cast and select crew have been onboard since day 1 and haven’t seen a cent. This not only goes against what I believe in, but it also makes for a very fragile industry.

The question, therefore, is how to raise the money needed to continue to make Starting From … Now! It’s a difficult question and one people are interested in finding out the answer to.  More often than not, when I meet people and it comes up that I’m making a web series, they ask how I make money out of doing that. In the past I’ve answered by saying “I don’t”. What I need to start saying, however, is “I don’t, but I need to”.

I could talk about how we undervalue the arts in this country, how we expect a photographer to take photos for free or an artist to paint a picture and not be paid when there’s no way we’d ask a plumber to fix a tap and not receive payment. I could go into all this but, to be honest, it’s been a long year and I just don’t have that much fight left in me at the moment. So this is a discussion I’ll take up again in the New Year, after I’ve had time to think, reflect and sleep.

And this will be our challenge for 2015 – how do we make this sustainable? How do we convert our almost 5 million views in 9 months to enough revenue to continue to make content? It’s not impossible. There are answers to these questions, but given the relatively short period of time web series have been around, the answers are going to be somewhat harder to find.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

The true measure of success

It’s been a while since my last blog, seven weeks in fact. Since I last wrote, we’ve finished post-production on Season 3, held a season launch, and released the first episode free on YouTube, as well as the whole season for download on Vimeo. This is our third season launch in 8 months. It’s been a really intense time, but it feels like much of that hard work is starting to pay off. The 12 episodes that make up Seasons 1 and 2 have had around 3.8 million views since March, the series is starting to attract interest from investors and is also gaining some recognition from press, both locally and internationally. Despite this recent success or, perhaps, because of it, I’ve been thinking about the period of time leading up to this. And when I say “period of time” I’m talking about a period of around 10 or 11 years.

When I finished film school at the end of 2002 I emerged not only with a Masters degree in Scriptwriting, but also with a certain degree of hope and expectation. I’d just graduated from the premier film school in the country, surely the world was my oyster. Surely not.

For whatever reason, or combination of reasons, employment wasn’t forthcoming. In hindsight, it was probably due to a lack of experience, confidence and talent, but may also have had something to do with the size of the Australian film and television industries. But I wasn’t discouraged, not yet. It gave me time to concentrate on my own writing. And I did. I wrote a number of short and feature film scripts, the majority of which never saw the light of day. As time went on, the prospect of actually seeing one of my scripts get made seemed more and more unlikely.

I can’t even begin to remember how often I thought about giving up and it was during that period that I was at my lowest. There were times when I felt so disheartened and inconsolable that I thought about not only giving up on writing, but giving up on everything. I kept wondering how you know when it’s time to stop, when you’ve given something everything you can and you just have to cut your losses and admit defeat. But for some reason, I’m not even sure what it was, I managed to make it through and even when I’d decided to quit, I found myself writing again.

It was only until recently that I considered that period to not only have been a waste of time, but also an embarrassment. There was a yawning gap in my resume, a chasm of failure, disappointment and unfulfilled promise. It was only in the last couple of months, however, that I realized that time wasn’t wasted. It was during those years that I developed the skills and resilience needed in order to not only make Starting From … Now!, but also to make the most of the past 18 months. While I hope to never have to revisit some of those dark times, in a way I’m glad it happened like it did and I’m glad I didn’t give up.

Who knows what will become of Starting From … Now! and who knows what the future will bring. In a way, it doesn’t really matter. Number of seasons, episodes, views, it’s all well and good but it’s not a true measure of success. Success is finding your way through and refusing to give up, both on yourself and what you love. 

By Julie Kalceff

The things I've learnt

Last week I looked back over the past twelve months and wrote of how much I’d learnt during that time. In this week’s blog I thought I’d list some of those things. These are in no particular order and are a combination of things I’ve learnt, things I already knew but had to learn again, and things I should have known but realised I didn’t. Some of these you may have heard before and others may seem like statements of the bleeding obvious, but many of them have been minor revelations and all of them have been part of the journey.

  • Trust your gut instincts
  • If you cut corners, for whatever reason, you’ll be made to pay for it somewhere down the line
  • You can never do enough preparation
  • The director/cinematographer relationship should be built on mutual trust and respect
  • Everything should serve the story
  • I don’t want to work with people who put their ego before the project
  • People will forgive a lot, but they won’t forgive bad sound
  • It’s when you need help the most that you find out who your friends are
  • You never have enough money
  • You never have enough time
  • You can fix a lot of things in post, but focus isn’t one of them
  • Good editors are amongst the most gifted of storytellers
  • If you’re going to shoot late at night, you should let your neighbours know first
  • Working with talented, driven, passionate people is one of the best things about filmmaking
  • Never underestimate the importance of having an abundance of fresh, healthy food on set
  • Actors are some of the most generous people you’ll ever meet
  • A good colourist can perform miracles
  • The secret to directing is surrounding yourself with talented people and then creating an environment in which they can do their best work
  • You never know what you’re capable of until you jump right in and do it
  • It is possible to find exceptionally talented people who are also nice to work with
  • I am an introvert who likes to collaborate with others
  • Coloured cellophane isn’t an adequate replacement for lighting gels
  • Actors are their own worst critics
  • Wrap parties are both enjoyable and necessary
  • You really do need conflict in every scene
  • A good producer not only makes your job easier, but also inspires you to do your job better
  • When a scene involves a character sending a text message, work out the time and date that message is sent prior to filming. It’s much easier than trying to fix it in post 
  • No matter how much you think it’s going to cost, it will probably cost more
  • A sense of humour is a very important quality in both cast and crew
  • Listen to what others have to say, but own the decisions you make
  • Shooting in someone’s house is stressful, especially when it’s your own
  • No one likes a tired, grumpy director
  • When shooting, don’t leave a scene until you’re sure you have what you need
  • You can’t be sure you have what you need if you don’t know what it is you need
  • Music is much more important in a scene than I realised
  • You can’t please everybody
  • As a director, your primary responsibility is to the story
  • I can do more than I give myself credit for
  • The audience will respond to your work in ways you never anticipated
  • Not all of those people whose projects you’ve supported over time will show the same support for yours
  • Meaningful subtext is very difficult to write
  • I probably shouldn’t wait for a season launch to get a haircut
  • No matter how careful you are, things (including friendships) will get broken
  • Contrary to what the mainstream Australian press would have you believe, there is a demand for stories about female protagonists
  • I now know what I want to be when I grow up

 By Julie Kalceff

 

It's been a big year

It’s been just over 12 months since we starting shooting Season 1 of Starting From … Now! This milestone of sorts has made me somewhat reflective, so please bear with me. It’s been a big year. During the last 12 months we’ve shot the equivalent of 18 short films, released 12 of those, and amassed views in excess of 2.6 million across the first two seasons. It’s been, by far, the most productive year of my life and, in many ways, one of the most rewarding.

Needless to say I’ve learnt a lot over the course of the last year. You can’t be engaged in that level of output and not learn something. What’s surprised me most, however, is not what I’ve learnt about filmmaking, but what I’ve learnt about myself.

Firstly, the filmmaking. I expected to learn a huge amount about directing in making this web series. I hadn’t done a great deal of directing prior to this so I knew I’d be learning as I went. Even though I read as much as possible about the craft prior to the shoot, directing is one of those things you have to learn on the job. And boy, did I learn. Like a lot of things, you learn the most by making mistakes. I can’t even count the number of mistakes I’ve made across the first three seasons of Starting From … Now! Things I look back on now and wish I could do over. But you can’t and that’s all part of the learning process. What you can do, however, is make sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. I’m hoping I’ve managed to do that but, if I’m being honest, that may not necessarily be the case.

As well as leaning a lot about directing, I’ve also learnt a great deal about writing. I have a Masters degree in screenwriting, I’ve been writing scripts for about 15 years and yet, over the past 12 months, I feel as though my writing has improved enormously and I’m a much better writer now than I was a year ago. This has a lot to do with the process of taking the work from script to screen. You can sit at a desk and write and, don’t get me wrong, you learn an incredible amount about writing by doing, however, it’s when you have to then work out how you’re going to shoot any given scene, when you sit in rehearsals with really talented actors who ask you what the conflict is in a particular scene, and when you see the rough cut of an episode and you know which scenes aren’t working, that’s when you learn a lot about writing. Again, if I’m being honest, on some level you probably knew which scenes weren’t working when you signed off on the script. For whatever reason you chose to ignore your gut instincts and send the script out anyway. It’s only when you’re on set or even in the edit when you realise what a mistake that was, which makes it harder to ignore next time you find yourself in that situation. 

On a more personal level, I’ve learnt an enormous amount about myself throughout this process. The events of the past 12 months have had a profound effect on how I see myself and my place in the industry. I’m much more confident than I was a year ago, both in terms of my craft and as a person. Prior to this I’d fallen into the habit of finding excuses not to do things. I was second-guessing my instincts and my ability to get things done. That’s no longer the case. While I’m still capable of being as insecure as the next person there’s something to be said for having to just get in and do it. The sheer volume of output over the past year has meant that even when I do have doubts and am feeling insecure, there’s not a great deal of time to dwell on it. In the end, you’ve got a deadline to meet and if you don’t meet it, then no-one will.

It’s been a big year and one that has, on a number of occasions, been extremely stressful. There are times when I’ve questioned my ability to do what needs to be done, when I’ve wept from sheer exhaustion and when I’ve had to prioritise the series over partner, family and friends. However, even during the most difficult of times, on some level, I’m aware of how lucky I am to be doing this. Not only have I learnt an incredible amount about filmmaking and about myself, I’ve also had the opportunity to share this experience with some incredibly talented, wonderful people, many of whom I now consider to be my friends. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how supportive some people have been and, not as surprised but still eternally grateful, for the support my partner has given me during this time.  

I had no idea when this started that it would turn out the way it has. You never do. There’s something to be said, therefore, that no matter how scared you are or how much you doubt your ability to pull it off, sometimes you just need to dive right in and see what happens. It’s a cliché but I fully subscribe to the belief that you only regret the things you don’t do. I’ve spent too much of my life putting things off and living with that regret. Having seen what’s happened over the past 12 months and how much we’ve been able to achieve, let’s hope that’s one lesson I’ve well and truly learnt for good.

By Julie Kalceff 

Shouting into the wind

Starting From … Now! reached an important milestone during the fortnight since my last blog. The series surpassed 2 million views on its Seasons 1 and 2 episodes. Given that Episode 1 of Season 1 was released in March this year, the milestone was reached faster than a number of other independent online series. We posted it on our Facebook page and tweeted about it, proud of our achievement.

Around the same time, Filmink, an Australian film magazine posted an article entitled: ‘5 Australian Web Series to Watch’ (http://www.filmink.com.au/news/5-australian-web-series-to-watch/). We weren’t one of those 5. Congratulations to the 5 that were included. It takes a considerable amount of hard work, time and money to make a web series. I am in no way trying to detract from the series that were included. What I did find interesting about the article, however, was that all 5 of the web series were made by, and about, men. If you read this article and were otherwise unaware, you’d assume that the only people making web series in Australia were men. Or, if not that, the only ones made in this country worth watching, were those made by, and about, men.

I know for a fact that neither of those statements is correct. I also know that not all of those series have achieved the audience reach and viewership that Starting From … Now! has. I know audience numbers aren’t the sole measure of success but when it comes to compiling a list of the 5 Australian web series “well worth your time”, surely this is a valid consideration. When statistics and viewership numbers are available, which they certainly are when it comes to web series, a professional publication has the opportunity to work with some quantifiable data in order to temper any inevitable subjectivity.

Since releasing Season 1 Episode 1 in March of this year, we’ve continually reached out to a number of Australian media outlets, Filmink included. We’ve had no response, until August 26 when Filmink retweeted a SFN tweet: “There are Australian web series that aren’t just by, or about, men. “Starting From Now!” has just reached 2 million views @filmink”. Does the fact that they retweeted it suggest they agree with me, or do they automatically retweet anything they are tagged in? I can’t quite work it out.

I have no doubt some of you will choose to dismiss this blog post as nothing more than sour grapes, a knee jerk reaction to not being included in the article. I thought long and hard about writing this blog. If this were a one-off I would have read the article and not thought of it again. However, this is anything but a one-off. The Filmink article was the catalyst for this blog post, but they’re not alone. They are not the only publication, media outlet or organisation in this country related to the film industry that shows a bias towards male creators and content. This is indicative of the way women are treated in the film industry in Australia. All you need to do is browse through any professional film publication or website and the gender bias is obvious.

Starting From … Now! isn’t perfect, but it doesn't deserve to be ignored. I can’t help but wonder how different the reception would be if Starting From … Now! was made by men and about men. If I were a graduate of the premier film school in this country, had produced a web series that surpassed 2 million views in only 5 months, had done so on a minuscule budget, and it was only one of two Australian web series listed in indiewire.com’s “33 exciting dramas upstaging TV with their diversity” (http://www.indiewire.com/article/east-los-high-and-32-other-web-dramas-upstaging-tv-with-their-diversity-20140731), and I was a man, how differently might this be playing out?

As a woman in this industry I feel ignored, undervalued and invisible. It’s 2014. I can’t believe this is still happening. What will it take for women’s stories and women’s success to be recognised, represented and celebrated in the way that men’s are?

By Julie Kalceff

Shooting Season 3

Before writing this I checked my last blog entry to see how long it had been - June 27, eight weeks ago. On one hand, it doesn’t seem that long since I last wrote but, on the other, it feels like enough has happened to fill six months, not two.

Since my last entry we’ve finished pre-production and production on Season 3 and have started on post. Which, for the most part, is why I haven’t submitted an entry for some time. It might take me a couple of weeks to catch up with all that’s happened but I’d like to start with the shoot.

Like both Seasons 1 and 2, we shot Season 3 over ten days – three days on, two days off and then seven days straight. The last seven days were pretty gruelling. There were some very long days and late nights amongst them. This isn’t ideal, but filming on a shoestring budget means you have to shoot when locations, cast and crew are available. You do what you have to and hope it all works out in the end. And it did.

This has been the best shoot we’ve had so far. The crew was focused, engaged, talented, and with a noticeable lack of ego. This, for me, is a very important quality when working so intensely with people. The cast, as always, were brilliant. I’ve spoken before about how talented I believe these actors are and how lucky I am to be working with them but this time, it was even better. I’ve been working with our core cast for almost a year now and, on this shoot, I was blown away by what I saw. I’m not prone to hyperbole, but, in my opinion, the performances can best be described as breathtaking. 

Despite all the challenges, it worked. At least, it felt like it did. I guess we won’t know for sure until the episodes are finished, but it felt good. Even when things outside our control fell down at the last minute we were able to find a way around them. And, more often than not, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Part of this is luck but a major part of it is planning, hard work and the sheer determination of those working on the project to do whatever has to be done to make the series the best it can be. This was true of every member of the cast and crew. When a supporting actor fell ill on the day she was meant to shoot, each member of our key cast went out of her way to find a replacement. When locations had to be changed at the last minute, cast and crew rallied and made it work.

When you’re in the midst of something like this, when you’ve been working seven days straight and you’re filming some of the most emotionally intense scenes of the entire series, you want people around you who you can trust. And I did. I trusted every member of that cast and crew, both as a person and a professional. I haven’t always had that level of trust on other shoots and now that I have, I don’t ever want to go back. This shoot felt like a real turning point for Starting From … Now!. It felt like the series was being lifted to another level. That’s something I want to build on, to not only take this team and make the coming seasons even better but to continue to work with them long into the future.

Usually, at the end of a shoot I’m more exhausted than anything else. This time, I’m excited, still tired, but mostly excited. 

By Julie Kalceff

If you don't want people to judge your work, then write a diary

Last night I sent the Season 3 scripts out to the cast. This may not seem like a momentous event but, to me, it was. This isn’t, of course, to say that the scripts are finished. Scripts are never finished. It eventually gets to a point where you have no choice but to leave them as is, but they are never “finished”. They have, however, left the warmth and safety of my computer to fend for themselves in the cruel, cold world. Have I spent enough time with them, nurtured them, tested them, made them strong enough to survive? Only time will tell. While they’re mine and no-one else has seen them, they’re full of potential. They can do and be anything. But once they’re out there it soon becomes apparent whether or not they’re going to make it. This is, of course, part of the process, but it’s also extremely confronting.

I’ve been writing for the screen for about 15 years and it’s still a major source of anxiety every time I put my work out there. That work is a part of me. It has to be or it’s worth nothing. As such, I feel exposed and vulnerable. But, at the same time, it’s only at this point that I can start to see the scripts for what they are.

While I’m writing I have very little perspective. I’m so immersed in that world that I stop seeing it for what it is. Is it good? I don't know. Will people want to watch it? I have no idea. Does it even make sense? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s only when I hand the work over to others that I can start to get some distance.

And, no matter how vulnerable it makes you feel, you need that distance and you need that input from others. If you don’t want people to judge your work, then write a diary. When you’re writing for the screen you want people to see it and if you want people to see it, then you want it to be the best possible work it can be. This only comes from viewing it objectively, from showing it to others and listening to what they have to say. People you trust, mind you, people whose opinion you value. And, even then, you can’t just take what they say on face value. You need to think about the feedback you’ve been given and then decide what’s best for the story. Your job isn’t to please others, to compromise to the point of mediocrity so that everyone is happy. Firstly, you will never reach a point where everyone is happy and secondly, your job as a writer is to serve the characters and the story. If you don’t do this, then those scripts that spent so long tucked up nice and safe in your computer, aren’t going to make it.

So, I’m trying to be brave, objective and resilient. They’re out there now. I can’t take them back. Are they strong enough to survive, to carry the weight of a production? I guess we’ll find out.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

Perspective

I’ve put off writing this blog this week because, to be honest, I haven’t felt like writing it. It’s been a busy week, for the majority of which I’ve been tired and stressed. I’m trying to rewrite the scripts for Season 3 while coordinating post-production on Season 2. It takes a lot of time and energy to have an episode ready for release each week. Not all of that time and energy is mine. There are a lot of people working really hard to get these episodes out. They’re not being paid, yet each week they put aside the time to work on this production. When I think of all the things that can go wrong (which I tend to do each night at around 3am) it’s a small miracle that anything ever comes together. Having said that, we have been blessed with an amazing and talented crew and I think this is apparent in each and every episode.

I also went to a funeral during the week. This helped put things into perspective on two counts. Firstly, it’s a web series. If I do everything I can to get an episode out on time and something outside of my control prevents that from happening on Tuesday at 9pm AEST, it would be disappointing, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And secondly, our time here, on this planet, is finite. I am, for the first time in my life, doing what I really want to do. It’s taken me a number of decades to get here and I’ve taken quite a few wrong turns along the way. But I’m here and even when I’m tired and stressed and things seem overwhelming I need to remember how lucky I am, make the most of it, and enjoy it while I still can. 

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

The joy of writing

I’ve just finished writing a first draft of the six episodes that will (hopefully) constitute Season 3 of Starting From … Now! Our intention is to make Season 3 but there are a number of factors that we have to address first. However, if there are no scripts, then it’s highly unlikely it will go ahead. So, today I finished the first draft of all six episodes.

Every time I finish a draft of anything I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. This has nothing to do with the quality of the writing but, instead, with the sheer relief of finishing. When I go back in a couple days, or a week or two in the case of a longer form project, it becomes apparent that this certainly isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written and will, in fact, need a lot of work before it sees the light of day.

But, the first draft is done. I know I’ve said that already but it’s a relief and, in some small way, an achievement. Writing is hard. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it or how much you think you know, every time you sit down to write a script you’re starting from scratch. Even with this project, where we’ve already made two seasons, you still need to find the story. You still need to listen to the characters and find out where they’re going. This isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work and a lot of time.

And it’s not just the time you spend sitting at your desk. It’s all the time. When I’m writing, the story and the characters are always there. They might not be at the forefront of my consciousness that whole time but, in one way or another, they’re with me, percolating away in some dark recess of my mind. It’s exciting, it’s invigorating, but, at the same time, it’s exhausting, and very anti-social. If I’ve been lucky enough to spend the day at my desk working on a script it’s really difficult to then step out of that world. I’ll often find myself in a social situation where I’m staring at someone, supposedly listening to them, but not hearing a word they’re saying. My partner is used to it now. She just ignores me.

That’s why getting that first draft onto the page is such a relief. Things become a little less tenuous. You now have something concrete to work with which, in some ways, creates problems of its own. It’s only once the story reaches the page that you start to see the holes. When it’s in your mind, it sounds great. You can’t really see what’s wrong with it. That’s why this is a first draft. It’s done, as I’m sure I’ve already told you, but the job’s not finished. There’s still a long way to go.

By Julie Kalceff 

 

Launching Season 2

We launched Season 2 of Starting From … Now! on Tuesday night. This meant not only releasing the first episode online, but also holding a launch party where we screened the first three episodes of the season for cast and crew, family and friends, industry and press. It was a great night.

I must say, though, I was extremely nervous leading up to it, even more so than when we launched Season 1. When we released Season 1 back in March there weren’t any expectations. In fact, no-one outside of those who worked on it and their immediate circles even knew it existed. It was a case of putting it out there and hoping for the best. This time was different. This time there were people anticipating its arrival, people with expectations and opinions on what should happen and who should do what. This time I felt a great deal more pressure to deliver. In hindsight, that’s a good pressure to have. It’s better that people have high expectations than none at all. It’s better that they’re anticipating its arrival than not even knowing it exists.

And it nearly didn’t exist. When I first set out to make this web series, I hadn’t planned on making a second season. I thought I’d make one season and then move onto another project. But then something happened. It was the day after we’d wrapped. I remember returning some of the gear we’d borrowed for the shoot, hauling it through the streets of Sydney. I was exhausted. I’d hardly slept, we’d just come off a ten-day shoot and the gear was really heavy but I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen next. What happens later that day, that week, when Darcy goes home, when Steph next sees Emily, when Kristen finds out? It kept nagging at me. I wanted to know, just as much as anyone else. So I went home and wrote it and there was Season 2. It sounds flippant to say it like that and I wish writing was that easy, but for some reason, these episodes came to me more easily than anything else I’ve ever written. It’s like they were already there, just waiting to come out.   

I was extremely lucky that the actors were available and willing to make a second season. It would have been impossible to do it without them and I fully believe that it was because of them these characters wouldn’t leave me alone. They’re the ones who brought them to life. They’re the ones that made them more than just words on a page.

Of course, it didn’t end there. There were months of hard work by a lot of different people before Season 2 actually came into existence. But that’s why we have launch nights and parties, because it is hard work. It’s long hours, it’s stressful, and a lot of people don’t get paid. It’s also extremely tenuous. No-one knows if the project you’ve just poured your heart and soul into is even going to find an audience. That’s why we need to celebrate when we can. And, given the response we received on the night, it feels like there’s something about this second season that’s worth celebrating. 

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

 

The importance of good direction

I did an acting course on the weekend. Anyone who knows me will know what a bizarre statement that is for me to make. Not only am I terribly self-conscious and hate people looking at me, I’m also a terrible actor. If there was a competition for world’s worst actor, I’d be sure to make the finals.

But not anymore.

The course I did was called “Acting for Directors and Producers” and was run by Sydney based actor and dramaturge Nadia Townsend. If you ever have the chance to work with Nadia, take it. 

The beauty of this course was that everyone was in the same boat. We were all self-conscious, we all prefer being behind the camera to being in front of it and, to be honest, none of us were great actors. But that’s who the course is designed for. It’s for people like us, who work with actors, and would like to know more about the craft. It’s one thing to call yourself a director, but it’s another to know how to work with people, particularly actors, when you don’t really understand their craft. I’m not saying that I’m now an expert, nor that I completely understand the process, but I have a much better idea now than I did a week ago.

Nadia not only helped us explore some of the philosophy behind acting, she also got us up on the floor and took us through some tasks that helped solidify what we’d been discussing. This was invaluable for a group of people who spend a lot of time in their head. Actually getting up and transforming the theory into practice, was great. A lot of what we touched on during the weekend I’d read about and was, in some way, familiar with, but it was putting this theory into practice that really brought it alive for me. And, not only that, I wasn’t as bad as I thought. None of us were. Throughout the weekend there were a number of times when we were so shocked by each other’s performance that we’d break into spontaneous applause. What was amazing was how effective just the right exercise or technique can be in encouraging a good performance. Even the smallest piece of direction, if it’s right for that moment, can make the world of difference. I saw it play out in front of me.

And that’s the main thing I’ll take away from the weekend – the importance of clear, constructive, well-timed, insightful direction and how transformative this can be. It sounds like something I should have already known and, I guess on some level I did, but actually seeing it play out with such dramatic effect really made an impact on me. If we were able to respond so effectively to such direction, imagine how invaluable that is to someone who actually knows what they’re doing. That’s the type of insight and understanding I want to develop as a director and that’s the kind support I want to be able to give my actors.

I don’t know that I’ll ever act again but I’m glad I had this experience and I have no doubt I’ll be a better director as a result.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 

 

Post-production

Ideally I wouldn’t write about post-production until I’d written about pre-production and production, but given that I started this blog part-way into the process, it hasn’t worked out that way. As I write this, we’re currently in post-production on Season 2 of Starting From … Now!.

Like both pre-production and production, post has its challenges and its rewards. One of these rewards is seeing everything come together, the footage you may have shot months ago is now starting to take shape and, hopefully, is beginning to resemble the vision you had when you first conceived the project. Ideally, once the editor, sound designer, composer and colour grader all work their magic, what you have in front of you surpasses that initial vision.

But post also has its challenges, starting with the edit. Once you step foot into the edit, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s in the edit that you regret having rushed that last shot or you curse yourself for not noticing a continuity error that makes your best take unusable. Sure, you can do pick-ups, shoot additional content, but I’ve never worked on a film or web series where we’ve had that luxury. Lack of time and money has meant we’re forced to work with what we have. You have to cut around something to keep continuity, or use a shot that may be slightly out of focus in places, but you have to make it work, because what ultimately matters is what ends up on the screen. This also means making sacrifices. It doesn’t matter how long it took to get a shot or how much you love the performance in a particular take, what matters is the story and the film/episode as a whole. The audience doesn't know what ends up on the cutting room floor, nor do they care. All they care about is watching something that is engaging and entertaining. Your job, at this stage, is to deliver the best possible product you can with what you have in front of you.

Having said that, it’s amazing what good editors can do and it’s also incredible how transformative the addition of good sound design and music can be, how much this can add to the impact of a scene and how it can engage the audience emotionally. It’s been said that an audience will forgive anything except poor sound. This is a lesson worth learning, preferably not the hard way.

And then there’s the colour grade. It’s only when you sit with a colour grader and see the before and after that you appreciate just how transformative their work can be.

And I’ve been lucky to work with some very talented people. What a web series, like a short film, allows you to do, is find people you can work with. People who share your work ethic, who take pride in what they do and who are passionate about their craft. This takes time and, once you find these people, you want to hold onto them. These are the people you want to take with you onto other, longer form, projects, people you can trust and who you know will care enough to take what you have and make it into the best possible product it can be. Part of the process of working on Starting From … Now! has been about building a team. And, just like Season 2, the team itself is really starting to take shape. 

by Julie Kalceff